Dogs are taking a big bite of Delhi — one every six minutes.
From January to October in 2015, 77,294 cases of dog bite were received by the Capital’s 35 government hospitals, information obtained under RTI has revealed. The figure is expected to be much higher as private hospitals are not required to report these cases to the government.
While city’s three municipal corporations spend crores of rupees on sterilizing strays every year, they still don’t have a record of the dog population. A conservative estimate puts their numbers at around 400,000, sources said.
“It’s shocking that while people are being bitten by dogs and their population is increasing, the authorities have not done anything,” RTI activist JS Walia said.
Animal right activists and NGOs while questioning the numbers blamed lack of commitment on part of officials for faltering sterlisation programme.
“Data provided by the governments is based on the vaccination purchased or administered, hence can’t be relied upon. Though the need for a better setup and the willingness of the authorities can’t be stressed more,” animal rights activist Rishi Dev said.
Around 33,000 strays were sterilised by three civic bodies last year. The civic bodies rely heavily on six NGOs for the work and pay Rs 770 for every sterilisation.
“On any given day we receive 20-30 cases of dog bites in our emergency. While a large number of them are children, the number of adults is not less either,” said a doctor at the government-run Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.
Delhi’s first and the only attempt at counting strays was in 2009 but it failed to give a clear picture, a civic official said.
NGOs see government and civic bodies’ indifference to public health as the bigger problem, not the high number of dog bites. “While at least three zones of municipal corporations have not been carrying out sterlisation at all, they have not been allowing the NGOs to work either,” said Geeta Seshamani, chairman Friendicoes Seca (Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals).
The animal population has been rising since 2013 because of lack of support to NGOs involved in the sterilisation and lack of awareness had not helped either, she said.
The civic bodies, on their part, counted strict rules and dependence on NGOs among reasons for failure.
“Public awareness is needed and from time to time we carry out educational drives as well. Although we have to abide by the rules of the Supreme Court, and despite incorporating several NGOs, the situation has remained unchanged,” a municipal official said.
Recently there was a huge uproar over a Kerala high court order for culling of stray dogs. Hearing several petitions, including one against the HC order, SC recently said indiscriminate killing of dogs was not warranted. It also said local authorities would be required to abide by the laws related to stray dogs.